After Phoenix victory, Harvick ready for final run next weekend with RCR

1 Comment

Kevin Harvick will enter his final race with Richard Childress Racing with a chance to win the Sprint Cup championship – a small chance, but a chance nonetheless.

Harvick, who won today’s Advocare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway after Carl Edwards ran out of fuel while leading with two laps to go, remains third in the Chase for the Sprint Cup but pulled to within 34 points of leader Jimmie Johnson.

The odds remain long for Harvick to come from behind and win his first Cup title, but no matter what happens in next weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he can at least say that he’s going out on a high note at RCR – the only team he’s ever driven for in his Cup career.

With Harvick on his way to Stewart-Haas Racing next season, he and RCR have been writing the final pages of their story together. It hasn’t been a completely smooth process – see the brouhaha that took place last month between Harvick and Childress’ grandsons, Ty and Austin Dillon, following a Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville – but the camp has managed to stay strong through the adversity.

“[Martinsville] was a tough week to handle, but I think that some of the conversations that we had were good for all of us and made us really understand just the fact that how successful we’ve been together and how successful we’ve been for each other as RCR,” Harvick said tonight at PIR.

“I think that situation really put into perspective – just made you think about everything that we’ve been able to accomplish and the things that we’ve been through together.”

Harvick equated those post-Martinsville talks as more of a “family conversation” and his boss, Childress, invoked the word family as well in his thoughts.

“We committed to each other early in the year that we’d give 100 percent, and we have, and Kevin has,” he said. “…We’re like family. You spend a lot of time with each other at the track, so you’re going to have your spats and stuff, and just got to make it work.”

And indeed, Harvick and RCR have made it work in their final season to the tune of four wins, nine Top-5s and 20 Top-10s – a season to be proud of, even if it proves unable to eclipse Johnson in this particular Chase.

“We’ve stumbled once [in the Chase] at Loudon with a 20th place finish, and we’ve won a couple [Chase] races, and here we are 34 points behind the 48 [Johnson],” Harvick said.

“…I feel like we’ve probably had the best Chase that we’ve ever had, and you go to Homestead 34 points behind. They’re just good.”

But…There’s still a chance.

Nearly 25 drivers already set for 2018 Indy 500… in mid-November

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Friday’s announcement that Danica Patrick would end her full-time driving career with a run in the 102nd Indianapolis 500, after also running the Daytona 500 in January, is another shot in the arm for the 2018 marquee event of North American open-wheel racing.

Surprisingly, it keeps the grid moving forward too to where nearly 75 percent of the 33 cars are already set… in mid-November, 2017.

Early confirmations of programs for the next year’s Indianapolis 500 aren’t new, but they’re seemingly coming earlier than normal this year, with a number of expected programs getting announced in the fall of 2017.

Coupled with the fact most of the IndyCar full-season grid for 2018 is set, it’s interesting to take a look at what’s already set for next year.

CONFIRMED FULL-SEASON (19)

The only things to add here are Dale Coyne Racing’s second driver in the No. 19 Honda, the road and street course driver for Ed Carpenter Racing in its No. 20 Chevrolet who may or may not be able to get an Indianapolis 500 extra seat in a third car, and the expected confirmation of Carlin’s graduation into IndyCar after three seasons in Indy Lights.

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (2, Honda): Scott Dixon, Ed Jones
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (2, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

CONFIRMED PARTIAL SEASON/INDY ONLY (4)

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Juncos Racing (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Danica Patrick

Here’s where it gets interesting. Castroneves is Team Penske’s confirmed fourth, and Juan Pablo Montoya could be a hypothetical fifth if the stars align – but it’s not in the immediate plans at this moment.

Patrick also makes her somewhat surprising Indianapolis comeback and with Penske, Andretti Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing not fielding her, the stars are aligned for her to drive with Chip Ganassi Racing in what would be a third car. Neither Patrick nor Ganassi said it’s happening today, but Ganassi acknowledged discussions, via NASCAR Talk.

Wilson finally gets his Indianapolis 500 shot with Andretti a year later as its fifth car. The team ran six last year, with the two Indy-only entries coming in separate partnership efforts between McLaren and Honda (Fernando Alonso) and Michael Shank Racing (Jack Harvey).

Jack Harvey is a very intriguing story for how he’ll be racing next year. NBC Sports understands a working relationship is being hatched between Shank and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and with Harvey bringing a program on behalf of AutoNation/SiriusXM to grow his role into a third-to-half season of racing, this could slot in nicely as SPM’s third car. While not “officially” confirmed, it would not be a surprise to see news revealed from the concerned parties in December.

How could Harvey become SPM three when SPM three was already announced, you ask? With the Calmels Sport with SPM program reportedly on thin ice after negative press, the unlikely union of the French team owner Didier Calmels, one-time open-wheel driver turned-sports car veteran Tristan Gommendy and SPM appears set to join the “announced and dropped before ever turning a wheel” club.

Kaiser’s four-race program with Juncos Racing was announced last month and the Indy Lights champion will likely have Chevrolet power, given the team’s existing relationship from 2017.

WHAT’S STILL TO COME

Playing it out a bit with the usual, “how many engines can each manufacturer provide” story, we know Honda ran 18 cars this year and was stretched to capacity, leaving Chevrolet with the remaining 15.

Work the math from here. Provided Carlin officially announces its entry (it still hasn’t to this point, but is known to have hired IndyCar personnel) and with Honda already stretched between its 12 previously announced full-season cars (4 Andretti, 2 Ganassi, 2 RLL, 2 SPM, 2 Coyne), with a 13th engine available at some races, Carlin would have to be at Chevrolet.

For Indianapolis, Honda already begins to work its car count further beyond those 13 (if SPM 3 gets added for more races) with Ganassi 3 (a TBD, but would be Patrick if confirmed here) and Andretti 5 (Wilson) to get to 15, which leaves just three leases at play to get to 18… again, this is in mid-November.

Provided Pippa Mann can work towards her annual appearance with Coyne, factor in a possible sixth Andretti car and an 18th Honda lease – perhaps a third car at RLL or fourth at Ganassi, SPM or Coyne – and suddenly the Honda inn would already be booked up.

Chevrolet would have the rest, and you can figure out the math from there.

It may only be mid-November, but the race to secure a berth on the grid for next May is already well underway.